It’s All Curricular

I get apprehensive whenever I hear educators referring to anything to do with the ‘Arts’ as co-curricular, representing a need they feel to separate it from what they perceive the be curricular, namely all things which are purely and inherently academic. Apart from anything else, such ideas have their genesis in an unhealthy focus on only the bottom level(s) of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning – the obsession with the accumulation of “stuff”/ knowledge as the be all and end all of learning and the primary purpose of school.

I therefore found this article very refreshing, as it explores concrete ways in which arts and academic learning can be interwoven in a cross-curricular approach, tailored to the age and learning level of the pupils in ways which are deeply meaningful and can lead to very high quality learning:

ASCD Article

When we read a piece like this and contrast it to the blog posting I did earlier this week about the extent to which lessons in UK schools are ‘dull and boring’ we realize the gulf between good quality education and the average. I remain a firm believer that the most significant differences are related to teacher motivation and there are a number of causes behind lower levels of motivation. These include;

  1. quality of leadership,
  2. the ‘tussle’ between teachers’ innate conservatism and resistance to change and society’s pressures to see education change to reflect a changed world,
  3. the reasons why people choose the profession, and
  4. how teachers are prepared for their roles, both pre- and in-service.

The Other TSRS Submissions to DFC

Here are the links for four other entries that were submitted to the Design for Change competition from across the TSRS campuses:

Class IV, Aravali
Class V-A, Vasant Vihar
Class V-B Vasant Vihar
Senior School – Aravali

Mission Julley at DFC Awards Today

Today, Design for Change are holding their Awards presentation function at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. Two teachers and three students of The Shri Ram School, Phase III campus have gone along to present the Mission Julley and to receive recognition as one of the 10 projects receiving Jury Special Mention.

Here’s the presentation uploaded by DFC:

Here’s the link to the list of 20 Top DFC student projects from across the country and the 10 Jury recognition awardees:

TedX DFC

A deservedly proud day for all who were involved for Mission Julley.

Weight Training for Kids

Here’s an interesting article that highlights some recent research that has provided detailed evidence and clarity in an area that has often been subject to a lot of myth – namely, whether or not weight training is safe for children.

I have to admit that I was fairly firmly in the ‘not good’ camp when it came to perceptions about whether weight training was good for kids. However, there’s a lot in the article that makes a lot of sense.

New York Times Blog article

That said, I want to stress that it doesn’t mean that any time soon I’m going to be advocating that we install lakhs worth of gym equipment, nautilus multi-gyms etc. Some of the reasons are in the article, some are in the nature of our school.

The article highlights that any benefits from weight training for children come only when it is supervised. If such equipment is put in to schools you have to be very sure that there are no circumstances under which children will get access unsupervised. A few years ago I heard of a boy in a boarding school who got in to the habit of entering the gym at night through a window. one night he injured his back on the equipment and was not found for some hours!

Supervision means highly trained supervision. It also means that where our school caters to the needs of children over such broad age ranges it would be near impossible to have a gym that was ‘child safe’ at all ages. By its nature, gym weight training equipment can only be used by very small numbers of students at a time. As an urban school we have to continually think about the optimal use of space. It would also represent a very big outlay of funds for equipment to be used by relatively small numbers of students.

I believe the article contained answers, that actually reminded me a great deal of some of the activities of my own PE classes right back to elementary school days, including the use of medicine balls for resistance training, press ups and other exercises where the body’s own weight is used. These can be further added to by exercises in pairs where the colleagues weight provides the resistance. To me, this is very compatible with an approach to PE which is far more about building strength, stamina, body awareness, flexibility and suppleness. Games and sports would be kept for other, quite separate sessions and would benefit from the development of these skills through PE.

Disillusion with UK School Education

The resistance to change that has been prevalent in education throughout the world in the last 10 years, mean that the pressures of frustration and dissatisfaction continues to grow.

This is an Evening Standard report from London that shows the extent to which OFSTED found boring, dull, uninspiring and complacent teaching in schools and conjectured on the price students were having to pay for it:

Evening Standard article

It struck me, reading this, that in every profession we come across people who are in the wrong place. People whose natural propensities are not really ideally suited to that job or profession, who are not really happy – but, who are not unhappy enough to put themselves to the trouble of getting out and exploring a different job or profession. In most situations, it’s not the end of the world. However, in education and medicine it’s potentially disastrous when the wrong people hang around because it’s just easier than moving to what they should really be doing.

Tragic enough for them, but even more tragic for the pupils or patients on the receiving end. This leads me to think that, as professions, teaching and medicine need even higher levels of accountability so that the “square pegs don’t make themselves comfortable in the round holes.”

Many in school will recall my earlier talks on “What is my Why?” – the importance for each of us to find the significant thing we are meant to do. This is every person’s duty to themselves. The more people do it, the greater the likelihood that the ‘wrong people’ would leave teaching and the ‘right people’ who belong in the profession would enter in greater numbers.

Godin on Where do Ideas Come From

Irreverent and thought provoking as ever, Seth Godin’s thoughts on where ideas come from:

Seth Godin

Education – Preserving the Closed Shop

Who can lead in the world of education? Well, here in India, as in most countries, who can be a school Principal is all wrapped up in all sorts of provisions relating to their academic qualifications. Have we now reached the time when we should really question and challenge the validity of this approach? Have the needs from educational leaders now evolved to the point where, like other professions, we should be ready to take leaders with the most appropriate skills from wherever we can find them (and regardless of how many certificates they have to PROVE they are a product of the old-paradigm education systems)?

These kinds of questions are brought in to stark focus as a result of a recent controversy in the US. This has come about because Mayor Bloomberg of New York has selected Ms Cathleen Black as Chancellor of the school system of the entire city of New York. The controversy is that, until now, Ms Black’s experience was in the publishing industry. Obviously, one of the points being made is that different industries and professions are far more receptive to senior people with transferable leadership skills in such things as ‘change management’ than the education profession.

Time Article

Somewhere along the way, I believe the resistance comes from education’s focus on ‘content’. A degree in a particular subject is seen in the context of its content – the body of knowledge that was ‘gone over’.

I believe that with the speed of change in today’s world leadership of the highest quality is at a premium. The skills – things like inspiring people, leading them towards a meaningful vision etc. are not narrowly specific to any one field.

Similar goes for teaching, as highlighted in the article. Closed shops in any industry or profession have always served to stifle innovation and progress, keep everything ‘cozy’ for those inside the profession at the cost of those who use the services.

We need the best, most committed teachers, with the most capable leaders – and it shouldn’t matter where they’re coming from or what their backgrounds.

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